Amid worsening India-Canada relations, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Wednesday asked the Indian nationals living in Canada and considering travelling to the country to "exercise utmost caution".
In a scathing statement, the MEA said that Indian nationals living in Canada and wanting to travel to the country are being advised utmost caution "in view of growing anti-India activities and politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence" in Canada.
In the advisory, the MEA noted that Indian diplomats and the pro-India sections of the Indian community in Canada have come under threats lately and that's why "Indian nationals are therefore advised to avoid travelling to regions and potential venues in Canada that have seen such incidents".
The phrase "politically-condoned" in the advisory is an apparent reference to the acceptance that Khalistani groups and leaders have found in Canada, particularly among the party and allies of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The Khalistan movement seeks to carve out a nation for the Sikhs from India. For decades, they waged a bloody insurgency that finally ebbed in 1990s. While the insurgency ebbed in India, the Khalistan movement has found a safe haven in Canada where several Khalistani leaders are based and are actively indulged in anti-India activities. Trudeau has over the years attended Khalistani rallies and has not acted on these elements despite India raising the issue frequently. The Khalistan issue this has been at the core of the deteriorating India-Canada relations.
The India-Canada relationship, which has been tense and precarious for a long time, nosedived this week after Trudeau on Monday spoke in the Canadian parliament that his government has "credible allegations of potential links" of Indian agents to the murder of a Khalistani terrorist on Canadian soil. It was followed by the expulsion of an Indian diplomat from Canada and him being publicly named as belonging to the Indian spy agency. The Government of India rejected the allegations and expelled a Canadian diplomat said to be from the Canadian intelligence agency in a tit-for-tat reaction.
The MEA further asked the Indian nationals to register with the High Commission of India in Canada and the Counsels General, so that the Indian missions in the country could help them better if they face any situations.
"Indian nationals and students from India in Canada must also register with the High Commission of India in Ottawa or Consulates General of India in Toronto and Vancouver through their respective websites, or the MADAD portal madad.gov.in. Registration would enable the High Commission and the Consulates General to better connect with Indian citizens in Canada in the event of any emergency or untoward incident," said the MEA.
The Khalistani leader at the centre of the ongoing row between India and Canada is Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who has been designated as a terrorist. Nijjar was the chief of the Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), a designated terrorist organisation.
The tensions in the India-Canada relationship were also at displace at the G-20 Summit in New Delhi earlier this month where Trudeau was snubbed by the Indian government. He received curt treatment from the Indian government which issued a harsh readout of the bilateral meeting between Trudeau and Prime Ministers. International relations observers at the time said that the readout was chilling from the Indian side and was tell-tale of low point the bilateral relationship was at.
"He [Modi] conveyed our strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada. They are promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises, and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship. The nexus of such forces with organized crime, drug syndicates and human trafficking should be a concern for Canada as well. It is essential for the two countries to cooperate in dealing with such threats," said the Indian readout.
In recent time, Indian missions, diplomats, and Hindu temples have come under repeated attacks in Canada and Khalistani elements have been considered to be central to these instances. Lately, killings and assaults on Indian nationals have also been reported in Canada.